How to make your taskbar buttons always switch to the last active window


Since Windows 7, apps with multiple open windows have been combined into a single taskbar button. Hovering the mouse over the button will give you a live thumbnail of each window and then you can click on the window you want to work with.

If you routinely switch between apps with open windows, that can get a bit cumbersome. You can hold down the Ctrl key while clicking a taskbar button to view the last active window – and then continue clicking Ctrl to cycle through each of that app’s open windows – but often you can just view the window instead of making it active . If you’re willing to do a mild registry edit, make sure that clicking a taskbar button always opens the last active window – no Ctrl key needed.

Note: This will not work on Windows 11 as of May 2022. However, it will still work on Windows 10,

Create toolbar buttons Open the last active window by manually editing the registry

In order for clicking taskbar buttons to open the last active window, you only need to adjust one setting in the Windows registry. This works on PCs running Windows 7, 8 or 10.

Warning: Registry Editor is a powerful tool and misuse of it can make your system unstable or even unusable. This is a pretty simple hack and as long as you stick to the instructions you should have no problems. That said, if you’ve never worked with it before, consider reading how to use the Registry Editor before you get started. And be sure to back up the registry (and your computer!) before making any changes.

RELATED: Learn to Use the Registry Editor Like a Pro

Open the Registry Editor by pressing Start and typing “regedit”. Press Enter to open the Registry Editor and give it permission to make changes to your PC.

In the Registry Editor, use the left sidebar to navigate to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced

Next you will create a new value within the Advanced key. Right-click the Advanced key and choose New > DWORD (32-bit) Value.

Name the new value “LastActiveClick”.

Double-click the new LastActiveClick value to open the properties window. Change the value from 0 to 1 in the “Value data” box and then click “OK”.

You can now close the Registry Editor. You will need to sign out and back in (or restart your PC) for the changes to take effect. You can test it by just opening an app and opening different windows. Make a window of another app active and then click the taskbar button of the original app. It should open the last window you worked on in that app. To undo the changes, just go back to the registry and change the LastActiveClick value back to 0 — or remove the value completely — then log out and back into Windows.

Download our registry hacks with one click

If you don’t feel like diving into the registry yourself, we’ve put together some registry hacks for you to use. The “Enable Last Active Click” hack creates the LastActiveClick value and sets it to 1. The “Disable Last Active Click (default)” hack removes the value from your registry and restores the default behavior. Both hacks are included in the following ZIP file. Double click on the one you want to use and click through the prompts. When you have applied the desired hack, log out and back in to Windows or restart your computer.

Taskbar Latest Active Click Hacks

RELATED: How to Make Your Own Windows Registry Hacks

These hacks are really just the Advanced key, stripped down to the LastActiveClick value we talked about in the previous section, and then exported to a REG file. And if you enjoy playing around with the registry, it’s worth taking the time to learn how to make your own registry hacks.

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